A year ago, a nurse placed a warm little bundle in my arms and offered to take some pictures while I let the tears flow freely and whispered, “I want to be your mommy” into the ear of a child who was not yet mine. I had no idea what kind of a mother I would be, I had no idea in that moment how my life would change. My mind was whirling with a million different thoughts and emotions, telling my heart to play it safe and not fall in love while my heart was transmitting a signal loud and clear that said, “Too late.”
So many of the things that were important to me a year and a day ago are not important to me now. So many new things are important that I never dreamed of. I have made serious life changes, I have learned about myself and about other people. I have met people I didn’t know, fallen away from people who I thought I would never stop hearing from, experienced mind-boggling highs and heartbreaking lows, laughed from sheer exhaustion, cried with joy and beauty. I have experienced 150% unconditional love, a love that doesn’t care if I’m fat or messed up or crabby or tired or a thousand other “ors”. A love that only cares that I’m me. It has inspired me to believe in myself in a way that I don’t think I have since I myself was a young child.
I genuinely didn’t know it was possible to experience a depth of emotion like I feel when I look at my daughter. I can’t imagine the hours I’ve spent looking at pictures of her while she takes her naps, just because I miss her while she’s sleeping. The mere thought of her robs me of my ability to speak, a lump forms in my throat and I try not to cry. I thought it was a cliché before when I heard women say, “Someone took my heart out of my chest and gave it arms and legs”. It’s not, it is true. Wherever she is, my heart is with her. When she climbs up on me and wraps her arms around my neck, snuggling into my hair, I have no idea how my body can contain the absolute joy I feel at that moment.
I am living the life I always dreamed about. I have an amazing collection of friends, both here locally and far afield. A year ago, I didn’t know Wendy, and I only knew Cindy and Amanda a little. Today, I can’t imagine how I would have survived my first year of mommyhood without them. They have become confidantes, advice-givers, and story-sharers. They let me talk about puke and poop and temper tantrums and sleep depravation like it’s all new and I’m telling them something they don’t know. The girls in my book club have been an ever-present source of support, from throwing me a shower last March to this past Monday when they listened patiently to me discuss the circumstances in which I now find myself, without a whole lot of family support. Elizabeth, Lauren, and Dustina have given me a shoulder to cry on and checked in with me regularly. Elizabeth helped me start to believe “We love you because of who you are, not what you do.” Melissa has never turned down an SOS when I needed a break and to get some sleep. The love I feel from Mike and Lesley and Russell and Amy, Leah’s surrogate aunts and uncles, the acceptance my daughter has received from people who don’t have to love her or her parents, it is inspiring and it touches me every day. Landry and Meredith keep me laughing. Colleen is as reliable as clockwork, and patient as the day is long. How blessed Michael and I were to find her.
And I cannot forget the young woman who left that baby in my arms and told me to be a mommy. This weekend when we see her, I will hug Tasha and remember again all she sacrificed that we could be together, that “we” could be “three”.
I have been able to travel. I have been able to attend my father-in-law’s 70th and sit by my ailing father’s bedside and go see my favorite authors and travel to see my best friends and go to Florida for the first time in years and entertain company and take care of my niece and witness the birth of my nephew and take care of my physical and mental health and hang out with friends any time of the day without a care in the world about how much vacation time I had.
I have seen a new side of my husband, witnessed the unerring patience he has with a little being who has gone from being furious if he walked in the room to starting to finally mellow out and enjoy his company. He has been patient with my growing pains as a new mom, has given me time to go back to being “just Susan” when I needed it, spoiled me when I didn’t deserve it, and encouraged me to change things I wasn’t happy about within myself. He has asked so little in return, and I have never felt closer to him than I do now. We are truly a team in so many ways. Our marriage isn’t just a couple of people who kind of like each other. We are “the parents” and we have “a family”.
I have let things fall by the wayside. I am not going to give up on the goals I had for myself before I was a mom. But I’ve learned to be gentler on myself and focus on the things that are most pressing and remember what’s important in the grand scheme of things. I have learned that I have value and that I am worth more than how I have been treated in the past and how I saw myself in only that light. And all because one year ago today, a little girl was handed to me and both she and her first mother put all their faith in me that I could be the person I wanted to be, for myself, but mostly for her. I love you, Leah. You have changed my life with yours.